Wednesday, November 29, 2006

All 'FALL' down in Wyoming

Today, morning talk-show host Brian Scott of KTWO-Radio in Casper, Wyo., conducted the first broadcast interview for "FALL," my book about one of the most monstrous crimes to ever hit that city. Great questions, provocative observations ... Give it a listen here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Heading for Wyoming

I'm off to Wyoming in a few days to launch my new book FALL. I grew up in Wyoming and it'll be good to be home, if even for a few chilly days in December. That's one way you know you're from Wyoming: 10-degrees is "a little chilly."

There are other ways to know, as a friend recently shared with me. Here are:

You Might Live in Wyoming ...

-- If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May.

-- If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there.

-- If you've worn shorts and a parka at the same time.

-- If you've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number

-- If "Vacation" means going anywhere south of Salt Lake City for the weekend.

-- If you measure distance in squares of farm land.

-- If you know several people who have hit a cow more than once.

-- If you have gone from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again.

-- If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching.

-- If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both unlocked.

-- If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them.

-- If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

-- If the I-80 speed limit is 75 mph -- you're going 90 and everybody is passing you.

-- If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

-- If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.

-- If you have more hours on your snow blower than miles on your car.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm thankful for ... upper-level winds

It's a sunny Gulf Coast Thanksgiving Day today. The air is still and warm on the eve of the Texas and Texas A&M game. The scent of candle wax, sage stuffing and roasting turkey fills the house. And it's less than a month before I see my daughter again. It's a memorable day, and I'm genuinely thankful. It's a good day to be a pilgrim.

A year ago, I celebrated Thanksgiving surrounded by the wrack and ruin of Hurricane Rita. My roof was fixed, but my fences were tossed hither and yon, five old trees were splintered and uprooted, three bay windows covered by blue tarps, my yard was a muddy bog of tractor skids and broken limbs, my chimney was three feet shorter, and my life upended. And last Thanksgiving, there were still six days left in the hurricane season, and my friends and I sat down to give thanks for survival, for not suffering as much damage as many others, for having a place to sit down and eat ... but with some apprehension about a monster hurricane season, worse and more real than any monster you imagine under your bed.

When June 1, 2006, rolled around, the new hurricane season began. It was predicted to be as big or bigger than the last. Our stomachs churned for two months before and almost six months after. We watched intently every swirling breeze off the coast of Africa; we came to know a map of the Caribbean better than we know the map of neighboring Louisiana. Do you know what it means to be able to plot to location of every weather buoy in the Gulf of Mexico?

But nothing happened. Oh, nine storms were named ... Alberto to Isaac. But that was merely a third of last year's named storms, barely half of what forecasters had expected. Time and time again this season, a low-pressure system would show signs of brewing a tropical storm or hurricane, but time and time again, they were shot down like carnival gallery ducks before they swelled into something truly dangerous. Time and time again, the threat of catastrophe was averted, not by science or prayer or technology, but by atmospheric providence in the form of -- pardon my Weather Channel-speak -- "upper-level winds."

These high-altitude tempests literally decapitated storms as they grew, chopping off their heads before they could grow into killers. These upper-level winds had not been expected, so they were not factored into the dire predictions for this year. They were unexpected gifts from God, from El Nino, from global warming, from the simple turning of the earth ... I don't know, and today it doesn't matter. They saved the Gulf Coast from the grief and destruction of another monster hurricane season. They comforted me. They calmed nerves as much as any guardian on any fortress wall. This season, they were heroes of a sort, protecting us from a terror I've witnessed first-hand.

Today, among many other things, I am thankful for upper-level winds.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Osturduckencorpheail Day!

There's a Thanksgiving controversy in the news today: A British researcher claims there were no turkeys at the first Thanksgiving in 1621 Plymouth. As you can imagine, that's sparked a major gobble squabble.

But here in the South, there will be a lot of Thanksgiving tables where the main meat will be merely ... turkey-like ... or turkey-inspired.

By now, most people have heard of "turducken" (short for turkey-duck-chicken). Since you might not believe me, here's the Wikipedia definition: "It is a de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. The cavity of the chicken and the rest of the gaps are filled with, at the very least, a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture or sausage meat, although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird. Some recipes call for the turkey to be stuffed with a chicken which is then stuffed with a duckling. It is also called a chuckey."

Apparently, turkey got to be too boring, so turduckens were invented. And now turduckens are too boring, so people have actually created other Thanksgiving birds, just to keep the tryptophan dreams alive.

This season, you might want to cook a Gurducken, a goose stuffed with a duck and a chicken...

... or a Turduckencorpheail, a standard turducken that is then stuffed with a cornish game hen, which is then stuffed with a pheasant, and finally stuffed with a quail.

... or a Osturduckencorpheail, an ostrich stuffed with turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken.

... or a Turgoduckmaguikenantidgeonck (a turkey, goose, duck, mallard, guineafowl, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon, woodcock.)

... or the world-record-holding Bustergophechideckneaealckideverwingailusharkolanine (bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan and a passerine. Since passerine is a generic term, it is not known exactly what kind of bird was used as the smallest in the actual roast ... maybe a hummingbird?)

Now that I've given you the bird six different ways .... Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

News that slipped through the crack

You might think we make this stuff up, but we're not that creative.

Here's the set-up: A dominatrix claims she hooked up with a local cop, who asked her to perform a rather perverse sexual act. The cop was later busted for misconduct and now the dominatrix is testifying at his trial, where she said:

"He wanted to go to a motel in the Bronx where I would defecate on him, but I told him I was uncomfortable going to the Bronx."

Some days, I love this job.

Monday, November 20, 2006

OMG, somebody said 'n*****' in a comedy club!

Michael Richards, the pompadoured goofball comedian who played Cosmo Kramer on "Seinfeld," got his ass in a sling after he blasted back at some hecklers (who happened to be black) in an L.A. comedy club with an angry rant splattered with a common six-letter racial epithet that rhymes with Tigger.

According to, a web site that is breaking a lot of entertainment news lately, Richards went a little crazy after the hecklers "playfully" called him a "cracker," among other things. A house camera caught Richards' response: "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass" ... "You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf**ker. Throw his ass out. He's a nigger! He's a nigger! He's a nigger! A nigger, look, there's a nigger!"

Obviously, entertainment media is atwitter that somebody would use the "N-word" in a comedy club. Lots of people will be disgusted, still more will be horrified, and an angry few will refuse to watch another "Seinfeld" re-run ... ever. Striking a blow for tolerance!

But here's what I don't get: If it's immoral to say the "N-word" in a comedy club and we're gonna get our panties in a wad about it, why is it so damn funny when Chris Rock does it?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Give a Kid a Backpack

Giggles (Photo by Ashley Franscell)

My photojournalist daughter Ashley Franscell just returned from Ecuador, where she was shooting for a charity that supplies needy children with backpacks and school items that will help their education. She came home with some outstanding photos (many of which are displayed at her blog, Depth of Field.)

But she came home with more. This was her second trip with Give a Kid a Backpack, which traveled earlier this year to El Salvador, too. Her world view has expanded exponentially, along with her compassion and urge to make a difference. On her Ecuadorian sojourn, she bought 30 disposable cameras to distribute among the children and will soon develop their photographs for a gallery show later this year. Any money raised by selling the photos will support the charity.

Here's Ashley's summary: "Give a Kid a Backpack Foundation Inc. collects backpacks, fills them with school supplies, everyday useful items and hand delivers them directly to poor school aged children. So far we have given over 2,100 backpacks to children in Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Afghanistan and Nicaragua but plan to expand our reach all over the world.

"The foundation has rapidly grown over the past year from a small effort to a full fledged 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 100% of all donations go to benefit these children.

"One particular target of our efforts is to deliver backpacks to poor rural school age children living in poverty. Children in these countries don’t have the same opportunity as the children in the U.S. Even though these children theoretically have access to public schools, they can’t always go. They are required to pay a registration and supply their own uniforms and school supplies to attend these schools. Many children can’t afford this and as a result, never receive an education. Our current goal is to hand deliver over 2,300 backpacks by the end of 2006."

If you want to help this unique organization, please go here.

The Deep: Strawberry Lake gives up its dead

Somebody should write a mystery ....

More than a week ago, Steven and Catheryn Roundy's small boat sank in a windstorm on Strawberry Reservoir, near Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, searchers have probed the lake's depths and found THREE bodies ... none of them belonging to the Roundys.

In fact, the bodies they've found are likely corpses from other accidents as long as 10 years ago. In those cases, no bodies were found, but search technology has improved since then.

And there's more: Searchers expect there's at least one more waterlogged corpse down there, in addition to the unfound Roundys.

Anybody know a mystery writer?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PlayStation 3: You've been punk'd

At 12:01 a.m. tonight, Sony will release its much-vaunted PlayStation 3, which debuted last week in a huge Hollywood party with scads of celebrities. Nerds have been camping out at Targets, Wal-Marts and other lucky retailers all over America for a chance to spend $600 for a little plastic box that plays games. Some of them will be re-selling it on eBay for $1,500 or more. [UPDATE, 10:08 A.M. 11/17: At least 13,135 Playstations are listed on eBay at this moment ... ranging as high as $5,200 in bidding.] Some are paying dozens of homeless people to stand in line for them, apparently in hopes of cornering the PlayStation market. And the market is hot, hot, hot!

And we're supposed to believe Sony "miscalculated" (or maybe somebody just didn't get the memo) when they allegedly built only 1 million of these toys for the entire world?

"It's not a marketing ploy,'' said Sony's PR guy this week. "Trust me.''

Stand back, folks. Lightning's gonna strike that guy.

How many times are we gonna fall for that "Sorry, folks, we didn't make enough Tickle Me Elmo/Cabbage Patch Kid/Razr scooters, so you'll just have to trample each other to buy our products" manipulation? Just wait until after Christmas and you won't be able to walk down an aisle at Kmart without knocking over a stack of PlayStation 3s -- and maybe for less.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

'If I did it' ... must-barf TV

Later this month, O.J. Simpson will appear in two one-hour programs on Fox TV to explain how he would have killed ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman ... IF he had done it.

If this appears to you to be a new low in American TV, you're not alone. Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal is just one of many who are outraged and nauseated by this lower-than-lowbrow programming ... which, by the way, promotes a book being published by another Fox division, HarperCollins. In fact, the book's editor is the show's interviewer! The sleaze factor is high, folks. Very high.

Chances are, the O.J. show won't live up to its hype anyway. Fox has a track record of promising (promoting?) but not delivering. But who will tune in and for what reasons? You want to hear O.J. explain what he thinks would have been better ways to kill two people? What's next ... Charles Manson's Tips and Tricks for Mass Murder? A televised seance for John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Charlie Starkweather? Lizzie Borden: Axed and Answered?

Oh, this won't sit well with Nancy Grace at all. And for once, I'll actually agree with her.

I wonder if O.J.'s profits will go to Fred Goldman, as a California court has ordered, or if the Juice's lawyers have sufficiently squeezed the law to let the "destitute" O.J. keep the money. He just keeps getting away with murder, doesn't he?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New gallery at

As we prepare to launch my new book, "FALL: The Rape and Murder of Innocence in a Small Town," we've posted a new gallery of photos at my web site. Stop in and take a look at the slideshow of snapshots of "the writer's life" from the past 5 years. Everything from my reporting in the Middle East to last month's trip to Panama.

When the book tour begins, I'll be blogging from the road. I thought it'd be kind of cool to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the "glamorous" life of an author basking in the glow of his adoring fans (both of them!) ... as well as the hell-bent-for-leather schedules of signings, interviews, laundry, cocktail control and hotel beds. Plus photos. Oh, you'll love it. Words and photos will be posted daily Dec. 1-10 at FALL, a blog set up especially for this new book. Bookmark it, link to it and return often.

(God, the narcissism of book promotion ... )

Friday, November 10, 2006

Beach scene

Message in a bottle, Playa Venao, Panama October 2006 (Photo by Ron Franscell)

20 Craziest Scientific Studies

If you're like me, you wonder all the time about how country music affects America's suicide rate. Or why spaghetti noodles never break in half. Or what a nervous gekko smells like.

Well, somebody out there -- smart somebodies with more letters after their names than I -- actually get paid to research such things. Here's a quick listing of 20 really important scientific research projects that will change the world tomorrow. Or soon. Maybe. Well, they might. Possible. I didn't say probable. Better living through nerdy behavior.

«Acute Management of the Zipper-Entrapped Penis» (1990) Presented by J. F. Nolan, T. J. Stillwell, and J. P. Sands. A quick, simple and non-traumatic approach to the zipper manipulation -- the paper says -- is presented in which prepuce is instantly released by lateral compression of the zip fastener, using a pliers.

«Fragmentation of Rods by Cascading Cracks: Why Spaghetti Does Not Break in Half» (2006)Presented by B. Audoly and S. Neukirch (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris). It explains why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces.

«Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold» (1994)Presented by M. K. Bakkevig (Sintef Unimed in Trondheim, Norway) and R. Nielson (Technical University of Denmark). Investigates the significance of wet underwear and compares any influence of fibre-type material and textile construction of underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort of humans during rest in the cold. The tests showed that the thickness of the underwear has more of an influence on the thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort, than the types of fibers tested.

«On Human Odour, Malaria Mosquitoes, and Limburger Cheese» (1996)Presented by B. Knols. It shows that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.

«Rectal Foreign Bodies: Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review of the World's Literature» (1986) Presented by D. B. Busch and J. R. Starling (Wisconsin). Includes reports of, among other items: seven light bulbs; a knife sharpener; two flashlights; a wire spring; a snuff box; an oil can with potato stopper; eleven different forms of fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs; a jeweler's saw; a frozen pig's tail; a tin cup; a beer glass; and one patient's remarkable ensemble collection consisting of spectacles, a suitcase key, a tobacco pouch and a magazine.

«The Pitch Drop Experiment» (1984) Presented by J. Mainstone and the late T. Parnell (University of Queensland, Australia) An experiment that began in the year 1927 -- in which a glob of congealed black tar has been slowly, slowly dripping through a funnel, at a rate of approximately one drop every nine years.

«The Relationship Among Height, Penile Length, and Foot Size» (1993) Presented by J. Bain (Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto) and K. Siminoski (University of Alberta). While comparing height, foot size and penile length, Bain said the relationship was minimal. "We found a weak correlation," he said and added this ratio should not be used by anyone to assess the size of a man's penis.

«Elucidation of Chemical Compounds Responsible for Foot Malodour» (1990)Presented by F. Kanda and others five scientist (Shisedo Research Center, Yokohama). It concluded that people who think they have foot odor do, and those who don't, don't.

«Navigation-Related Structural Change In the Hippocampi of Taxi Drivers» (2000) E. Maguire, and others (University College London) Presented evidence that the brains of London taxi drivers are more highly developed than those of their fellow citizens.

«Secret Life: Firsthand, Documented Accounts of UFO Abductions» (1992) Presented by J. Mack (Harvard Medical School) and D. Jacobs (Temple University). Concluded that people who believe they were kidnapped by aliens from outer space, probably were, and that "the focus of the abduction is the production of children."

«Interim Report: Results of the National Demonstration Project To Reduce Violent Crime and Improve Governmental Effectiveness In Washington, D.C., June 7 to July 30, 1993» (1993) Presented by J. Hagelin (Maharishi University and The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy). Concluded that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18 percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C.

«Survey of Frog Odorous Secretions, Their Possible Functions and Phylogenetic Significance» (2004)Presented by Benjamin Smith (University of Adelaide, Australia) and others. It catalogs the peculiar odors produced by 131 different species of frogs when the frogs were feeling stressed.

«Blink-Free Photos, Guaranteed» (2006)Presented by N. Svenson and P. Barnes (Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization) It calculated the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.

«Transmission of Gonorrhea Through an Inflatable Doll» (1993) Presented by E. Kleist (Nuuk, Greenland) and H. Moi (Oslo, Norway).

«A Man Who Pricked His Finger and Smelled Putrid for 5 Years» (1996) Presented by C. Mills, M. Llewelyn, D. Kelly, and P/ Holt (Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport).

«Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed» (1975) Presented by B. Vonnegut (State University of New York at Albany).

«Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature» (2006)Presented by A. Mulet, J. Benedito and J. Bon (Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Spain) and C. Rosselló (Universitat de les Illes Balears).

«The Effect of Country Music on Suicide» (1992) Presented by S. Stack (Wayne State University) and J. Gundlach (Auburn University).

«Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans» (2002) S. Ghirlanda, L. Jansson, and M. Enquist (Stockholm University)

«Demonstration of the Exponential Decay Law Using Beer Froth» (2002) Presented by A. Leike (University of Munich) Demonstrated that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay.

(Tip o' the mortar board to

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hamas declares war on America

Today, Hamas' military wing called on Muslims around the world to attack American targets.

"America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre [an apparent misfiring of an IDF artillery shell in the Gaza Strip.] Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons," Hamas said in a press release sent to The Associated Press.

Gosh, am I the only guy who didn't realize Hamas had been neutral up 'til now?

No nation in the world has worked harder than America toward establishing a separate Palestinian state -- not even the Palestinians themselves. Hamas has done more to damage the prospects of peace in Gaza than any other. If Palestinians truly want a homeland -- and not merely the annihilation of Israel -- they'd reach out to those nations that support the idea, not bomb them. Go figure.

And it's hard to imagine how Hamas' call for attacks on America could breathe even more fire into anti-U.S. Islamic radicals than already burns in them. But maybe it will and a few more young Palestinians will blow themselves up for Allah. This should turn out well, don't you think?

Luckily, the Democrats now control the U.S. House and maybe the Senate, and they will be able to solve this radical Muslim mess within the week. Maybe sooner. They promised they would.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

So who did Hillary vote for?

Here's the quote as U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton emerged from the voting booth today:

"I voted for change ... except for me."

Gee, if you were an honest politician exhorting change in Washington, wouldn't you vote against yourself?

How the Smurfs (and Transformers and He-Man and April O'Neil) changed the world

Who says TV cartoons don't have a tremendous impact on society? After all, they begin to define our culture, kid by kid, at a very impressionable time.

So Cracked magazine compiled its list of "8 Important Lessons for '80s (and '70s) Cartoons." Is it reasonably on point? Don't ask me. I still think Judy Jetson and Betty Rubble are babes.


CARTOON: The Smurfs
LESSON: Communism works! For naysayers who point to the Former Soviet Union as proof that communism is inherently flawed, may we merely direct your attention to Smurf Village, where everyone shares everything, wears similar utilitarian clothing, battles Gargamel and his turn-Smurfs-to-gold get rich quick schemes and obeys the dictates of a bearded, red hat-wearing, benevolent authority figure. Quoth Comrade Papa: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” Really, he actually said that.
How it affected us as adults: Secret communist agendas ceased being dangerous, or really any adjective of consequence, years ago. The worst thing communism does these days is make Ivy League students waste a couple of years wearing ugly clothes and attending boring meetings. However, the sexual politics of Smurf Village, with its one female for every 30 guys, did go a long way towards preparing us for freshman year of college.

LESSON: Spinach is good for you. Sure, it doesn’t taste as good as candy, ice cream or opium, but it’s full of essential vitamins and minerals that’ll make your muscles explode like battleship cannons. If you want to triumph over the bullying Blutos of the world and win the affections of your own lovely, leggy Olive Oyl, pound a can of spinach at least once a day. Or put it in your corncob pipe and smoke it, like everybody’s favorite ornery, mumbling sailorman. Toot toot!
How it affected us as adults: You only need to look at the steroid scandal rocking Major League Baseball to see that Popeye raised a generation that is willing to use performance enhancers. Also, it should be pointed out that Olive Oyl was the first anorexic sex symbol.

LESSON: Knowing is half the battle. The other half of the battle is kicking Cobra’s terrorist ass. And with the coolest soldier codenames ever --Snake Eyes, Duke, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck-- winning the war on terror should be no problem. Good will always win out over evil, because good guys work together (Team Work! Cooperation!), while bad guys are ruthless cowards who turn tail and run whenever G.I. Joe’s laser guns get to zappin’. As Sergeant Slaughter once said: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people and neither do we.” Now that’s some good strategery.
How it affected us as adults: Actually, we’re pretty certain that our strategy for the Iraq War was conceived after a two day long G.I. Joe marathon in the Pentagon. They just implicitly trusted that the good guys were going to win, that firing off our guns would make the bad guys run for the caves and that giving everyone cute nicknames was somehow endearing. When things didn’t turn out the way they’d planned, the administration placed the blame on faulty intelligence, or in other words: “Knowing is half the battle, and we unfortunately didn’t know shit.”

CARTOON: Scooby Doo
LESSON: Trust no one. Those phantoms in the fog are actually malevolent hicks, dressed up as ghosts to scare you off their spooky farm. That monster hiding in the attic is actually old man McGee, trying to find the treasure buried in the floorboards. And that happy-go-lucky frat boy, Fred, is actually a bloodthirsty killer. Don’t turn your back on him. Or the girls. Or your dog…Or maybe we’ve just been spending too much time in the Mystery Machine, and got a little contact high paranoia. Hey, it happens. You want a Scooby Snack? Yeah, it is dog food. So what? You’re really harshing my mellow man. What are you, a narc?
How it affected us as adults: We can’t be certain, but it would appear that our habit of, upon being dumped, grabbing hold of our ex-girlfriends’ chin and yanking upward, started with this show.

LESSON: It’s OK to be gay. Look at this guy: golden locks cut in a tasteful bob, buff biceps, tanned, toned, hairless torso, a magic sword and most importantly, fabulous powers. What’s more, He-Man invites his handsome friends, the Masters of the Universe, to come hang out in his castle anytime. Of course Skeletor and his fugly cohorts are never allowed access to the secrets of He-Man’s dark, dry palace.Yes, we had He-Man toys, like Ram-Man, Trap-Jaw and even Castle Grayskull. We also had a favorite pair of tighty whiteys that had He-Man on one cheek and Skeletor on the other, battling over our asshole. But did merely owning and wearing that underwear make us gay?
How it affected us as adults: As regards the above question, it’s a very complex matter, but in a word: yes. (For more on depictions of homosexuality in '80s cartoons, please see Care Bears.)

LESSON: Grrrls rock! OK, this was more our sister’s show, but we certainly watched it on more than one occasion, and learned that chicks with guitars and magic earrings kick ass. Jem is a sexy feminist living every young girl’s dream: music executive by day and rock star by night. She has it all: a bubblegum pop band called The Holograms, a boyfriend in love with both her and her alter ego and, for some reason, a foster home for orphans. In addition to teaching us how much grrrls rock, Jem also taught us that love triangles between only two people are often messy, confusing and potentially hilarious.What? You’ve never seen Jem? Oh. Neither have we.
How it affected us as adults: Let’s just say the matching restraining orders filed against us by Debbie Gibson and Joan Jett didn’t happen on their own.

CARTOON: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
LESSON: April O’Neil is really hot. She’s got red hair, wears a sexy yellow jumpsuit and gets down with anthropomorphic pizza-fiends. Most girls want nothing to do with dudes that live in the sewers, but not April O’Neil. She doesn’t even mind hanging with that old man-rat wearing a pink kimono! This girl is a freak, for real. I’ve got one word for you dude: cowabunga. Cowabunga that chick in your underground lair all night long.
How it affected us as adults: Mistakenly thought our girlfriend would be cool with it if we called them dude, ate nothing but pizza and wore a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask during sex.

CARTOON: Transformers
LESSON: If we’re not careful, robots will kill us all. This is a humbling lesson for any child to learn, but an easy one to accept, considering Transformers was one of the coolest cartoons of the '80s. Would the Unabomber have renounced his violent ways if he were to witness the sheer stunning spectacle that is Grimlock? Hard to say, since he didn’t have a TV. But we will tell you one thing: when machines replace humans at the top of the food chain, we’ll be standing on the sidelines, waving our Autobot flag with fervent pride. Because, let’s face it, getting eaten by an alien car would suck.
How it affected us as adults: The reason we stay away from Priuses and make our TV wear a blindfold when we sleep at night.

Monday, November 06, 2006

APB: Have you seen this man?
(You might not remember...)

Salt Lake County, Utah’s public enemy No. 1 was busted over the weekend after he tried to elude cops at a local motel -- and fell through the ceiling into another room. OK, so clearly he's not the brightest bulb on the tree, but if you're gonna be an outlaw and fugitive, don 't you think you'd want to blend into a crowd more?

Friday, November 03, 2006

'Dad who tried to sacrifice boy gets probation'

Yep, that's really the headline. Either our justice system has gotten pretty cynical or a headline writer was in the middle of eating GooGooClusters.

Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Beaumont, Texas: Safe from dildoes

This foot-long was detained by Beaumont Police, but released after questioning ... with a stern warning

This week, Beaumont, Texas, was ranked among the unsafest American cities, coming in at No. 301 of 371 urban areas. The list by Morgan Quitno Press ranks cities from safest to most dangerous by using 2005 FBI figures on murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. St. Louis ranked as most dangerous, while the safest U.S. city was Brick, N.J. According to the report, Beaumont is safer than cities such as Richmond, Va. (357), Reading, Pa. (351), Tacoma, Wash. (324), but still more dangerous than San Francisco (270), Seattle (262) and New York City (145). That's right: New York City is safer than Beaumont, Texas.

So of course, it makes sense that our cops -- having judged themselves to be superior at fighting violent crime -- would undertake the dangerous task of making Beaumont safe from ... dildoes. Delicate sensibilities must be preserved at any cost!

Yes, last week, our courageous police force raided three local shops that sell adult videos and sexual devices. They busted nine astonished clerks who were threatening the world order and the virtue of all womanhood by selling dirty movies and blobs of vibrating rubber shaped like a .... oh my god, a penis. (Here in the South we still whisper words like "penis," pregnant" and "cancer.")

In Texas, it's illegal to own more than five dildoes, and anyone who sells even one of them can do, um, hard time. Of course, this is the same state that gave us the Chicken Ranch, Anna Nicole Smith and a gubernatorial candidate named Kinky, so we're not exactly innocent, but one must keep up appearances, even if one is a state where creating something bigger than the next guy is a virtue. In Texas, you can walk down the street with a six-shooter strapped to your side, but a dildo is a deadly weapon. Dildoes don't kill people ... people kill dildoes (well, at least the batteries.)

Actually, it's kind of funny that a local cop was busted a few months ago for taking nude shots of his under-age girlfriend on his squad car. And everybody in town -- including the cops -- knows where the hideaway illegal gaming joints are. And the police chief is peeved because his city ranks as "unsafe" ... maybe he could improve his rating if his guys were solving real crimes instead of dildo-hunting.

Me, I'm just glad that all our murders, rapes, armed robberies here in Beaumont have been solved and all the killers, rapists and robbers have gotten a one-way trip to Huntsville. Soon, we'll round up all the dildo purveyors and send them off, too. Then we can start investigating all those perverts who have a naked girl on their mudflaps.

I feel so safe.